What’s the Real Deal with Ingestible Skin Care?

We’ve got the inside story.

Ingestible skin care or nutricosmetics (pills, powders, and drinks that are good for your skin) have been huge in Asia for decades, but they’ve only recently made their way to North America. One of the more established names in the field is Vancouver-based withinUs, which celebrated its fifth birthday this month. But what’s the science behind ingestibles?

Collagen is the protein that gives our skin structure, but our bodies’ ability to produce it diminishes as we grow older. This can lead to skin looking lined and less firm, as well as joint problems, since collagen is also a component of muscles, bones, and tendons. Many beauty brands claim that applying their serums and creams will boost the skin’s ability to produce collagen, but in fact that’s quite difficult, since collagen is produced in the skin’s dermis―deep below the surface of the skin―and it’s hard for ingredients to penetrate that far.

Ingestible skin-care approaches the problem from inside out, and many of them use collagen as their key ingredient, but according to withinUs founder Tami Nasu, the science of that is not straightforward. “As more products appear on the shelves and companies are using the word collagen to increase their popularity, very few consumers know what the difference and benefits are,” says the Vancouverite.


The withinUs Matcha is sourced and grown in Japan.


It all comes down to molecular weight. Most ingestible skin-care uses animal collagen, which has large molecules that can’t pass through to the bloodstream; instead, they are digested by the body and used for energy. There are some products that use plant-based collagen too, but Nasu says there’s no evidence they can induce collagen production. withinUs starts with the scales of sustainably sourced fish, and extracts collagen peptides from them. Nasu says these are low molecular weight, so they have a higher absorption rate into the bloodstream, and that they are clinically proven to boost collagen production in the body.

The effects on skin with daily ingestion for four to eight weeks can include boosted hydration and reduced fine lines and wrinkles. Because the peptides are said to increase collagen production in the whole body, people have also noticed healthier hair and nails, and even a reduction in the joint pain associated with osteoarthritis.

withinUs launched in 2014 with TruMarine Collagen, a powder that can be added to any drink. The brand now counts Michelle Obama, Kate Hudson, and Jillian Harris as fans, and its range has extended to a total of seven products. The latest, withinUs Turmeric MCT + TruMarine™ Collagen, contains curcumin, the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant turmeric extract.

What’s next for ingestibles? Nasu sees things evolving in North America as they have in Japan. “Women in particular are becoming more educated and recognizing that beauty from within is just as important as, if not more important, than topical skin applications for the maintenance of healthy skin,” she says.


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